Friday, January 27, 2012


On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, Buffets, Inc. the parent corporation of Old Country Buffet, Ryans, Hometown Buffet, Fire Mountain,Grannie's Buffet, and Tahoe Joe's voluntarily filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. This is the second bankruptcy filed by this corporation in four years - the first in 2008. They stated that their intention was a reorganization that they worked out with "senior lenders" who hold 83% of the corporation's debt.

On Thursday, January 19th, on the Old Country Buffet Facebook page the corporation posted the following statement:

"The decision to close a restaurant and leave one of our communities is always a tough one for us. We know there is an impact not only for our own associates, but also for the guests who have supported us. Unfortunately, the realities of today's economy mean that we have to make hard decisions, and we sincerely regret that we won't be able to continue to serve our loyal guests in some locations. Thank you for being part of our family."

The comments that followed were all focused on what does this mean - what locations are you closing. It was soon discovered through web search that Buffets, Inc. would close 81 of their 494 restaurants spread across all of the chains that they own. It was also discovered that the corporation would not disclose the list of restaurants that they would be closing in respect of the employees to be affected who they wanted to inform first. Sounds nice, doesn't it. Here is what happened.

On Friday, January 20, 2012, representatives of Buffets, Inc. walked through the doors of 81 restaurants and informed managers and employees that this would be their last day of employment. This was their idea of personal and advanced notice. Customers were shocked to visit these restaurants and find a closed sign on the door.

Many of you who read this site regularly will recall when the the same Buffets, Inc. bought the Ryan's chain several years ago and then walked in to many, many of those restaurants the same way and announced that the location was closed - no advanced notice to anyone. You read here the reaction of employees and location managers who told their stories in comments made to articles on this site about the closing - and articles were devoted just to them.

Of course, this is not the first, or second time that Buffets, Inc. has done this. When the first bankruptcy was declared by them in 2008, they closed 50 restaurants.

The CEO of the corporation, Mike Andrews, states that a store by store examination was made of "financial performance occupancy costs, market conditions and long-term strategy" and that stores that were closed were "under-performing". If you go by customer, employee, and manager reports this was not the case - and a number of the restaurants closed were busy and making money. They also announced that they "need to gain more favorable lease terms with the rest of the landlords, and Buffets said additional closings could be required if leases cannot be modified on acceptable terms" ( quotes from So there is a good chance you may still travel to your nearest OCB and find it closed.

Restaurants were closed across the country. There still is no complete list from Buffets, Inc. that has been made public. There are reports on OCB's Facebook from customers of some of the stores that they have seen closed. Buffets sent emails to those on their email offers list in areas where stores were closed that included a coupon to take to the next closest OCB which was named in the email - some more than fifty miles away. Those with gift cards would have to find another OCB to use them at - and in some areas there just were not any to be found. Thanks to a reader - here is a list of those locations closed last week:


My most sincere wishes and condolences to those employees and managers who now find themselves out of work. If you are reading this and wish to comment, please do so (please keep the language as civil as possible as this is a family site and I want to include what all of you have to say). In these difficult economic times this is a tragic. There are employees who have worked for this company for twenty years who are now out on the street without a job. I have to wonder what cut in salary Mr. Andrews has taken and what cuts of the corporate level management and employees. It is easy,Mr. Andrews, to sit in a large office building and play with the lives of people who depend on you for the livelihood of themselves and their families off in your distant locations. You are not the one who has to look at them as they walk out the door for the last time.

Sad times, and becoming just too commonplace.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chen's Buffet City, Levittown, New York

A new Asian buffet has opened on Long Island, New York. It opened in mid-December with great anticipation. I watched for months the location be transformed from a large, empty storefront that years ago was once a chain drugstore to a new buffet restaurant. The location is actually directly across the way from the Old Country Buffet. Each time we passed we wondered when it would open. Just about when it looked like it was open, we called and were told "next week", and then that next week we called again, only to be told again "next week". It finally opened and it has had large crowds ever since. I have actually been there five times at this point - so many things were happening in December that I just did not have a chance to write this article - and we kept going back.

Chen's Buffet City is a combination of Chinese buffet and Japanese hibachi/sushi. If you look on their website, they call themselves a Japanese buffet, but they are not really. Other than the hibachi grill and the sushi bar, this is a Chinese buffet. Most of the dishes on the buffet are Chinese.

Since I have gone back so many times in just a short time, it is clear that I like this buffet. The food is good. There are a few problems that I will go into later but know up front that this is a good buffet. The dining room is large with a combination of booths and tables. The buffet servers are in the rear of the room with eight large double sided buffet servers. Half of the back wall is the hibachi grill and the other half is the sushi bar. There is a small lobby when you come in and the only nights that we did not wait for a table were weeknights. We have been there two weeknights, two Friday nights and New Year's Eve. Yes, we went New Year's Eve and they were serving their regular buffet at the regular price. The room that night was packed and we waited almost 45 minutes to get in. When you go in and there is a wait you are given a number that will be called when your table is ready. The numbers are not in sequence and there seems to be a code for the number in your party in the number - so do not be surprised if the numbers are not called in order of the number itself.

The price of the adult buffet at dinner is $11.49! Yes, for all that this buffet has to offer it has the least expensive dinner price of any Oriental buffet on Long Island. This price is the same no matter what night you go - weeknights or weekends. Soda, tea, or ice tea is $1.00 and it is unlimited. Lunch is $7,99 for adults. There are children's prices - dinner - under 2 free, 3-6 $4.99, 7-11 $6.49 - lunch - 3-6 $2.99, 7-11 $4.99. On our first visit after our first glass of Diet Coke (they are not using Coke products- I suspect they are an off brand) they ran out of Diet Coke- they came back to say so and that they will bring regular Coke- no, no we told them we can't drink that and need something without sugar - we settled on hot tea for my wife and iced tea for me- they were trying and since they had just opened they were not anticipating the crowds or the amount of Diet Coke that is consumed at Chinese buffets. This has not happened since.

There is a large salad bar with a variety of Asian prepared salads, lettuce and salad toppings. If you want salad you will not be disappointed. I don't find a need to have salad at an Asian buffet so I have skipped the salad bar. On the same cold server you will find mounds of peel and eat shrimp, cold mussels, and raw clams. There are also cold stone crabs. No matter what you see in the print advertisements or the home page of their website there are no crab legs. Let me repeat that so that you don't get disappointed when you go - THERE ARE NO CRAB LEGS. There is, next to the shrimp, what looks like crab meat strips - but I am very sure (though I did not sample this) that this is not real crab but the fish Krab substitute. I believe, that they intended to serve snow crab legs, but when they actually opened realized immediately that they could not offer that along with everything else that they have for the price that they are charging. This is not very much a loss unless you are a crab leg fanatic. There is plenty more here.

There are six soups - wonton, egg drop, hot and sour, miso, clam chowder, and chicken vegetable. I like to mix soups - I add a wonton to a mixture of hot and sour and egg drop - I enjoy this because it takes the spice off the hot and sour. The soup has been good every time.

It is hard to describe where to start and what they have because they have so much. There are the usual assortment of Chinese appetizers - small egg rolls, spring rolls, fried crab claws, fried cheese stuffed wontons, wings, chicken on a stick, shrimp balls, deep fried fish dumplings. chicken nuggets, fried plantain, fried squid, seasoned french fries, baked clams, steamed clams and more. There are steamed peach buns, steamed shu mai, steamed crystal dumplings which are sweet, and pan fried dumplings. The dumpling sauce is over by the pan fried dumplings which are another server with entrees. They do have spare ribs - these are the typical Chinese buffet style spare ribs overly covered in thick red sugar sauce.

While my wife will go to the buffet servers and take a selection of the many Chinese entrees, I go over to the hibachi grill. This is the same type of hibachi grill that you will find in a Japanese restaurant or buffet. They do have a wider variety of raw vegetables to add - making it appear like more of a selection found at a Mongolian barbecue grill - but this is not a Mongolian barbecue grill. The meat is what makes the difference. There are good sized steaks here to take, pieces of chicken meat, shrimp, and cross slices of beef ribs. There is also noodles - and these noodles are so long that it is almost impossible to take a portion and put it on your dish without several noodles that go on for feet still coming up from the serving tray. You can take whatever you like on a plate - add the meat on top - some just take meat - some just take vegetables and when it is your turn - and there has always been a line - you hand it to the chef and he puts the meat down on the grill separate from the vegetables and cooks it with the addition of oil, butter, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and garlic. Now - I told you that I have been to the restaurant five times. I have been up to the hibachi grill ten times - twice each visit. I have not had my hibachi cooked the same way twice. This is not a good thing. Even the same chef has not cooked it the same way twice. There are usually two chefs at the grill to handle the crowd. Sometimes I have been asked how I would like the steak cooked, sometimes not. Sometimes they add butter, sometimes not. Sometimes they put garlic, sometimes not. Sometimes they add two sauces and sometimes one. When we first went, there was a very skilled hibachi chef at the grill - and a crowd of Asian men behind the grill watching him. Obviously, he was the teacher - and that plate was the best that I have had there so far. He even squeezed an orange onto someone's shrimp. I have not seen that since. The last time we were there, the chef did not even cut up the steak as has always been done before and is usual for hibachi steak - he just cooked it and put it on the plate whole next to the vegetables. There is no consistency in cooking at the hibachi grill - and even though I like it a lot, there needs to be. If you don't want them to add something tell them right away - some understand English better than others, but make yourself known. If you want no fat used - tell them. I will tell you that I have been to a Japanese hibachi since going first to Chen's and I like the hibachi dishes that I have had at Chen's better.

The sushi bar is large but the assortment is small. There are mostly rolls and they are not quick to refill the trays when they are empty- though there are always two sushi chefs standing at the bar. They have put out shrimp, salmon, and tuna on top of rice, but these are taken quickly and then rarely will you see them again. I was a bit surprised on New Years Eve when I went up to the two sushi chefs - at the time there were salmon and tuna on rice out on the buffet - and I asked for just some pieces of tuna and salmon with no rice. I could have easily taken the salmon and tuna on rice that was out and not eaten the rice - as was suggested to me by a man who was passing and heard what happened, but I did not want to waste the rice. Both chefs looked at each other and then looked at me like I had asked them to fly - and said "no!". I asked again, in case there was a language issue - and I got a definite no again. So I took the rice and left it over. I really do not understand this, and it was the first strike this buffet received in my mind.

The selection of entrees is extensive and different ones have shown up replacing others from visit to visit. The first visit there was an excellent shrimp with scallions which has not been there since. There has been a shrimp with lobster sauce that was a thick brown sauce that was very good. Since that time the shrimp and lobster sauce has been the standard light sauce with large pieces of egg white. It is also mixed with krab pieces. The sauce is good and close to the full flavor as to what I have had a Chinese menu restaurants. There has been kung pow chicken on one occasion. There is always chicken and broccoli and beef with peppers. There is a large tray of teriyaki chicken. There is a large tray of egg foo young, but beware of the tray of brown sauce that is behind it because that is not egg foo young sauce - I was suspicious when it was a dark brown. It is beef gravy. (Not good on egg foo young!) There is a beef roast out for you to slice yourself. There is salmon and there is steamed whitefish which was good but it needed ginger sauce. Of course, you will find lo mein and fried rice. There is also steamed brown rice in addition to white rice. There is a large tray of corn on the cob. There is sweet and sour chicken. There is stone crab with ginger sauce. There is a dish with shrimp and corn. There is duck but no fixing to make Peking duck but the pieces of duck are meaty and good. Other dishes that we have seen include salt and pepper shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, spicy chicken, honey chicken, general tso chicken, sesame chicken, coconut shrimp, mussels with oyster sauce, mixed Chinese vegetable, bok choy, baked seafood, baked spinach, beef and cheese casserole, fried shrimp, sealegs with bacon, mushrooms in oyster sauce, garlic shrimp, sauteed green beans. and more. There is pizza, rolls, and garlic bread, too. This is another of those buffets that there is so much that you cannot possibly eat it all at one visit.

Dessert is also more than you will find at most Chinese buffets with a large assortment of fresh fruit, pudding, jello, hard ice cream cups that are found in two freezer cases, little cake squares, cream puffs, cookies, etc. The big dessert feature is a - CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN! This is totally unsupervised and with all of the other comments that I have made about these in other articles I found a new problem here. First, the selections to dip are marshmallows, pineapple chunks, macaroons, sugar filled wafer cookies, bananas, and apple wedges. The fruit is out in a cold server on the table with the fountain. There are sticks in a cup to take to dip with. There are tongs to take from the serving trays. Now, here is the problem - and this exists at EVERY chocolate fountain You take what you want to dip and put it on a plate. Then you take the wood skewers and with your FINGERS put each item on a stick. The item that has been in your fingers now goes into the chocolate. You might have just as well dipped your fingers in. See the problem. Now, this takes nothing away from Chens - it is no different with other chocolate fountains. But I watched everyone doing this while at Chen's. There is no way to avoid this other than to have a server at the fountain wearing gloves and dipping for you - and that is going to be rare any place (other than Shady Maple where that is done). So please, don't overwhelm the comments section about the chocolate fountain - it has all been said already. If you enjoy chocolate fountains then this is a good one. I tried it here once just to taste the chocolate and it was good chocolate.

After reading this I am sure you are hungry. I am. I mentioned problems at the beginning and I have included a few. One last problem that is consistent time to time is that the food is not kept hot enough on the buffet. It is not cold, but warm. You need to take from the bottom of a tray to be sure you get hot food. I heard about a part of China where food is traditionally served luke-warm and I am starting to wonder if many of these buffet owners come from that province. As I have said before, food on a buffet needs to be kept HOT - not just warm. There is a microwave out in the middle of the buffet with a sign that says to the effect - "if the food is not hot enough for you heat it up". Really? Not an acceptable solution but perhaps the food is not intended to be hot. You will notice that this has NOT kept me from going back.

I very much enjoy this buffet and it is becoming a regular for me. It is a wonderful value and the food is good. I am hoping that with time the crowds will settle down and there will be less of a wait to get in. The OCB across the road must be crying because they have never been this busy.

Perhaps I should not recommend it, because it will mean a longer wait when I go -but I really have to recommend Chen's Buffet City to you. This is a definite try it if you are nearby.

Chen's Buffet is located at 3056 Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown, NY 11756. Their phone number is 516.520-0888. There is a website which is linked at the side of this page. They are open 7 days a week and their hours are:
Lunch Buffet: Monday to Saturday 11:00am-3:30pm
Dinner Buffet: Monday to Saturday 3:30pm-9:30pm
Sunday and Holidays: 11:00 am-9:30pm.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another Christmas Dinner at Best Buffet, Huntington, New York

I was not sure that I was going to write this article or not, but apparently, Best Buffet, a Chinese buffet in Huntington, New York has a lot of fans who read this site, there have been a lot of comments about Best Buffet on a recent article that has nothing to do with this restaurant. Last year in 2010, we went to Best Buffet for a special Christmas dinner. I wrote an article then about how good it was - and I have been thinking through 2011 that come Christmas we would go back for that special holiday meal again. This dinner is actually served on four nights - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. As the holidays, approached I looked to see if it would be offered again, and on their website, I saw that it would be. Our plans for Christmas dinner were then set.

The price of this special dinner has gone up a dollar since last year. A tip of 12% is automatically added to your bill. Soda is unlimited and costs extra - we What is offered on the buffet has slightly changed as well as the Oriental Hot Pot section - Shabu-Shabu is no longer offered at the restaurant and, of course then, no longer included on the meal. This was no great loss, though if you are Asian it may be something that you would miss. For the uninitiated into this type of eating, a lot of raw things that you pick to be boiled for you - this was a bit daunting to try. I did not see it mentioned any longer on their website and I knew that it would not be there this year - which was fine with me.

As I said a year ago, this is a Chinese restaurant that caterers to Chinese people - which is great because they offer many dishes that you will not find in most Chinese restaurants and almost never find at a Chinese buffet. Many of the people dining here are Asian and they appear to be enjoying what they are eating - so I can only assume that it is being prepared authentically. Again, this is a good thing.

Many of the things that I wrote abut last year still hold true. I will focus on some of the things that I had that were different this year and also something that is a bit of a problem. I am going to start with the problem first - and I will preface this by saying that it was not so much of a problem that we did not enjoy the dinner and we were not happy - but, it is a concern. When I first reviewed Best Buffet several years ago when it reopened from its former incarnation - the wonderful, East Buffet, the food that was being served on the buffet tables and at the grill area was not hot - in fact, then it was cold. For that reason (and the high meal price of this restaurant) we did not go back. When we did go back a year ago with my fingers crossed that this had been corrected, I was happy to see that it was. This year was another story - and the food was not cold but just warm. This is not good. First, things that are fatty are terrible if they are not hot. Second, it is not safe to not keep food being served at the correct temperature. It was not that the restaurant was empty and that food was sitting. The restaurant was crowed with diners and food was being put out repeatedly - but not hot. It is a problem, and Best needs to correct this. If the Board of Health came in as a surprise and put a food thermometer into the serving trays, there would be violations of health code to answer. I am sure that I will go back again, and hopefully again, they will have corrected this. You know, if you don't put out your best on a special meal like this - well, it is just wrong. Now that I have gotten this out of the way, I will tell you about the meal - and really, we had a good time.

There were several soups on the main buffet server - Lobster Bisque was there again, as it had been last year. It was, though, better last year as it was thicker and there was good pieces of lobster in the soup - last year. This year there was no lobster to be seen in the soup but it had a good lobster taste. Despite the lack of chunks of lobster the soup was good. Later in the meal I saw that there was two other soup servers against a small side wall next to the carving area with two very Chinese soups. I tried the Duck Soup. I knew it was a Marx Brothers movie, but I never saw duck soup served anywhere before. The duck soup was a thin duck broth with pieces of duck in it. It is a simple soup, a little on the fatty side, but it has a solid duck taste. It was an experience.

Last year I said that there was a sign for lobster but on lobster was served other than steamed lobster claws mixed in with the crab legs. This year there was lobster in ginger sauce served at the carving station - and this is good because when this is served at buffets that you go up and take it yourself, there is always a line waiting for it to be refilled and the first three people on the line take all of it. Here, the man behind the counter filled a plate for you - and mostly good tail pieces. No big crowds and fairly distributed portions of lobster. It was very tasty. There was also half lobsters covered with slices of cheese and grilled under a broiler. These were cooked on demand - you asked for one and a grill chef prepared it and put it under the grill. When done, it was placed on your plate. This was good but tended to be dry. Again, as last year there were steamed lobster claws.

There was roast suckling pig again this year. It is cut up into small pieces and served on a hot tray - not hot enough though. It would have been better had it been really hot, but it was OK warm. Looking back at my review from last year, the pig also was just warm then.

There were several carvings - and all looked good! There was ham, turkey (a real turkey), Peking duck, Prime Rib, and Fillet Mignon. There was a chef preparing the Peking Duck in the traditional style or you could just ask for pieces of duck. The duck was crispy and good.

There is an extensive sushi bar that includes pieces of raw fish without rice, if you are like me and enjoy the fish but don't want the rice. There were also a variety of rolls. One of the nice things here is that they have low sodium soy sauce available - sure, lots of salt in oriental cooking anyway, but the low sodium soy sauce tastes exactly like the full salt kind and is a little better for you.

There is an extensive salad bar that not only has regular salad fixings and plenty of them but also has a whole side of Asian prepared salads. On one end were cold shrimp and raw clams and oysters on the half shell. The oysters were good. So was the shrimp. (I tend to skip the clams though I do eat them occasionally.)

There is a large dessert bar that includes a number of Asian desserts in addition to the little cream puffs and pastries. There is soft serve ice cream and sundae toppings.

What stands out about this holiday meal is that there is so much and so much that is different that you WANT to try, that you can't possibly try it all. I went past what I knew was my limit at this meal because I kept seeing more things to try- and most of you who read this site know that when I try things I take just a little - not a whole portion. But I was overfull with the many little portions that I tried - and I could have kept going if my stomach and my better sense were not telling me to stop. This is what I like about the holiday dinner at Best Buffet and this is what brought me back from last year - and likely next year as well.

According to their website, this meal seems to be going to be repeated (though they do not give menu details) for Chinese New Year on January 21, 22, and 23, 2012 (the year of the dragon). Make reservations if you are interested in going for Chinese New Year. (The Christmas buffets need no reservations.)

So, Best Buffet - if you are reading this - get the food hot and keep it that way - and keep offering this wonderful holiday feast for Christmas and New Year's.

I do recommend this special dinner. I cannot speak for the day to day regular meals, as it has been awhile since I have been to one here. I can tell you that weeknight prices are almost $20 a person and weekends are $27! They seem to have a lunch special going on now that the website says will end at the end of February where lunch is $8.99 (regularly $10.99). It is this lunch special that brought all of the positive comments that I mentioned at the beginning. Yes, it is a bargain at $8.99 to get close to what you get at night for twice that price - but for me and I am sure many who live on a budget, $8.99 is still a lot to spend for lunch- though I would not expect a buffet like this to charge any less - even at $10.99. I am sure that there are many who can afford it - and the time on a weekday to have a lavish lunch.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Ryan's Buffet

I have not been to a Ryan's Buffet since Buffets, Inc. took them over a few years ago. Buffets, Inc. is the parent corporation and owners of Old Country Buffet. Ryan's are not anywhere near my area and I only get to go to them when I am traveling - and traveling at a distance. While traveling in early December I had an opportunity to have dinner at a Ryan's in Virginia, and on the return trip, stopped there again one week later. I have written about this particular Ryan's in the past. This Ryan's is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. During my two visits I was very much able to see how this restaurant and I am certain, the whole chain, has changed since the takeover.

There has been a lot of controversy around the takeover and I have written about that in detail on this site - and there have been a large number of comments posted to this site from employees, managers, former employees, former managers - all of Ryan's - who were very effected by the takeover including a number who lost their employment when Buffets, Inc. closed a large number of Ryan's locations. I am not going to go into all of that again, but it is important to understand that Ryan's under new ownership was not an invisible changeover.

First, the physical layout of this restaurant has not changed. It is exactly as it was when I was last here. All Ryan's have a large flame grill and that grill is still there with a chef. You would not really know that anything is different until you see what is being served on the buffet. The price was lower at Ryan's than OCB - $9.99 for dinner. Beverages were always extra at Ryan's and these were slightly more expensive than at OCB - $2.10. Coupons good at one chain are good at the other.

What is on the buffet is very much what you will find at an Old Country Buffet. As was suspected when the takeover occurred the object was to take what was the top buffet chain at the time and bring it down to what was the third of the buffet chains - OCB. Some of the food items that you would find at Ryan's in the past are still there but many items have been changed over to Old Country Buffet's menu and items that were the same at both - for example, fried chicken, now are prepared using OCB's recipes - which is a shame, because in the past, Ryan's fried chicken was so much better than OCB's.

We went first on a Thursday night and then on a Tuesday night. One of Ryan's dishes that is one of my wife's favorites is their chicken pot pie. (Keep in mind, if you read this site regularly, that this is my picky eater wife that I am talking about.) When we discussed stopping at Ryan's she wondered if they would still have the chicken pot pie - and on that Thursday night they did. It was the same as it always has been. It was once and still is very tasty and it was nice to see that this was something untouched by OCB influence. It is, as you would suspect, chicken, carrots, potatoes, etc. cooked in a white sauce under a pie crust. Ryan's chicken pot pie also contains pasta which makes this very tasty dish a carb-counters nightmare, but we won't, for the moment, be so concerned about that. Bottom line is that it is still good. When we went back the next week on Tuesday, there was no chicken pot pie, but there was chicken and dumplings - not the OCB chicken and dumplings, but REAL chicken and dumplings - nice pieces of chicken with thick, drop dough dumplings and vegetables in a light, but slightly thick sauce. My wife was disappointed that there was no chicken pot pie, but I thought that this was at least something good to replace it.

The chargrill was grilling steaks as they always have. The steak now, however, is not the same, and is now the same steak that is served at OCB and it was highly over-seasoned. What is missing from the grill are the various other grilled meats that Ryan's would have. There generally, in the past, would be smoked sausage on the grill. There was smoked sausage but it was on the buffet server and served in barbecue sauce on Thursday and then on Tuesday, it was served with peppers and onions with a semi-sweet sauce, the same as it is served at Old Country Buffet. Interesting side note, here it was called "rope sausage" that is perhaps a regional name for it. To my taste, it was better when it was cooked on the grill along side the steaks. I went up for a steak and asked for one rare. The woman who was cooking told me that she did not have anything rare, but would put a steak on for me and cook it that way. I thanked her and told her that I would be back later. I went around the buffet and took other things to eat and returned to our table, intending to go for the steak when we got up for our next plate. At the point that we were almost done, the woman from the grill came over to our table with a plate of steak. She asked if I had asked for a rare steak, I told her I had, and she smiled and handed me the plate. I have to note that this happened once before a number of years ago at this same Ryan's. This would never happen at Old Country Buffet. I only wish the steak was as good as the service. The steak was so full of seasoning and pepper that it burned my lips and I had to scrape the top and bottom off to be able to finish it. When we returned the next Tuesday, the steak was not as peppery, but still over-seasoned. The one thing that is important is that there is steak at Ryan's every night, unlike OCB where steak is only served on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, the steak is still served to order and not put out, after grilling, on a steam table under cover where it cooks to well done in a matter of minutes and that is how it is served.

The salad bar at Ryan's is still more extensive than OCB. They still put out the Caesar Salad so that you assemble it yourself and you add the dressing to it. This is so much better than the prepared Caesar Salad that OCB puts out and that varies from location to location. There is still pepperoni slices on the salad bar, tuna salad, and a variety of prepared salads, some of which are now the exact same prepared salads found at OCB.

The chicken noodle soup at Ryan's still has the thick, doughy noodles that has always made this chicken noodle soup so much better than that served at OCB. There were three soups served.

There is still a baked potato bar. There is still a taco bar but it offered much less than what it did in the past, and, actually, less than what is on the taco bar at OCB.

On the buffet on both nights was catfish, but not the catfish nuggets that are served at Old Country Buffet, but whole catfish, battered and fried with the fin and tail still on. The catfish was delicious but there are many tiny bones in catfish and for someone like me who does not eat whole catfish often, this is something to take great care with and is certainly not for children - at least not for children who are not being raised where this is common. Even after pulling the whole spine with bones out, there still were bones. Perhaps this is why the catfish at OCB is served as boned, fried nuggets of catfish - but I have tried those nuggets and they are not very good.

The dessert bar is still pretty much as it always has been. It is a "real" bakery bar, meaning that you can see the preparation of the cakes, etc. and they go right into the oven and come out warm. They had full sized layer cakes - not the little squares. They all looked very tempting. Gone were the gummy bears on the sundae bar, and the sundae bar was abbreviated from what it had been.

I came away from Ryan's on both visits thinking that if you could take some of the things at Old Country Buffet and do them right - do them as they should be done - that is what I found at Ryan's. There was the grill cooking steaks - as you like them. There was the good chicken noodle soup. There was the mix it yourself Caesar Salad. There were "real" layer cakes. If the steaks were the Old Ryan's steaks it would have been much better, but it was nice to see that while some of the old Ryan's menu and recipes are gone, there still are a lot of things remaining.

At your table, you are going to see the same table advertising cards as you see in OCB - but with the Ryan's name more prominent followed by OCB and the other related names of Buffets Inc. restaurants - but they are exactly the same. So the corporate office is making sure that you know of their presence. One would hope in such an acquisition that the best of both would be blended - at both locations - or that the acquired chain would remain as close to the same as possible, and not a "knock-off" of the other chain. No, here nothing of Ryan's was brought to OCB, but a lot of the not as good of OCB was brought to Ryan's.

I hope to be able to visit another Ryan's location (perhaps two) in the Spring. I will let you know if what I find is similar. Since my visit to Ryan's, I have been to OCB on a Tuesday and a Thursday - and the so-called features of those nights at OCB were there on those nights at Ryan's - some prepared better at Ryan's.

For now, if my assumption of what is happening here is happening at all of the Ryan's, then I would suggest you try one if you come across one - they are fewer and further between these days. If your experience at a Ryan's since the take-over is different, please leave a comment.